Danielle Fishel addressed a “pay disparity” between her and her male costars on “Boy Meets World.”
She said it persisted after she was made a series regular and her team advised her to skip a table read.
She followed the advice of her team, which her dad agreed with, but thought she’d get fired.
On Monday’s episode of the “Boy Meets World” rewatch podcast “Pod Meets World,” Danielle Fishel and her cohosts Rider Strong and Will Friedle discussed the large “pay disparity” in Fishel’s contract when compared to her male costars and how she skipped a table read during negotiations to lessen the gap.
The hosts and their guest Lauren Lapkus were discussing Fishel’s standing on the show throughout the early seasons of the hit TGIF sitcom around the 21:00 mark when Fishel referenced the pay disparity that persisted “even after I became a series regular.”
“The excuse that was used was that, ‘Well, we didn’t know you were gonna be on the show,'” she said.
Fishel’s role as Topanga Lawrence, Cory Matthews’ (Ben Savage) eventual love interest and wife, was initially just a small guest star part on season one, filmed when Fishel would have been around 12 years old. Series creator Michael Jacobs and producers saw potential in the pairing and then expanded Topanga’s role to include more episodes in season one and continue in season two.
“By season two, you did know. By season two, I was accounted for,” Fishel said, noting that the excuse that there wasn’t money in the budget to pay her more should go “out the window” by then. But it didn’t.
Fishel, now 41, said that unnamed executives gave her and her team the same excuse as late as season three, though she and Strong had the same agent at the time.
Friedle added that Fishel was paid significantly less even when the show was “clearly building Cory and Topanga as a thing.”
Cory’s romance with Topanga technically started on her first episode, titled “Cory’s Alternative Friends,” when Topanga gave Cory his first kiss. When Fishel became a regular, it slowly gained at least as much importance as his friendship with Shawn (Strong).
“I had to threaten to not show up to a table read,” Fishel said, recalling her team’s fight to get her paid fairly.
Fishel said that her dad and agent Judy Savage (no relation to Fishel’s costar, Ben Savage) stood their ground in negotiations with ABC or Disney (Fishel didn’t recall which) and told her she had to skip a table read to show them she was “serious about not coming back” unless she got “treated fairly.”
Fishel recalled sobbing to her team as a young teenager and saying, “You’re gonna lose this job for me.” She said she was young and didn’t quite care as much about getting paid fairly as her dad and Judy did.
“If they end up firing me because I don’t show up to a table read, I will never speak to my family ever again,” the mother of two remembered thinking.
But she said she listened, noting, “I ended up not showing up.”
The topic of conversation changed quickly before the story was concluded, but Fishel went on to star as Topanga on every season of the show until it ended in 2000, so presumably the contract dispute was resolved in a way that was satisfying to her team.
New episodes of “Pod Meets Word” air weekly.
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